All night long I heard the howling wind, that sounded like it was whipping, slashing, breaking, pounding down everything on the house and in the garden. It’s been that windy now for three days, and today again and tomorrow it will be even more windy.
I hear my mother’s voice lamenting and then cursing the wind. She was not a foul-mouthed woman, but the wind made her curse. How she hated it. Its violence, its constant thrashing, the way it blew threw her garden and tore up all the flowers. She stood at the top of the stairs yelling at the wind, shouting for it to stop. I am just the same.
This wind always comes at the wrong time. When there are still roses, when there are tall bushy dahlias with huge dinner plate blooms, when there are still cosmos in pinks, whites and magenta waving their delicate heads. When the chrysanthemums are sitting in shallow pots in glorious shades of bronze, yellow, lavender, and oranges. Even the house jasmine still has buds and has actually started to bloom again– a hothouse plant really and there it is still green and tall against the outdoor fireplace, wondering perhaps when I will bring it inside. A hollyhock has started to set out buds again and some are ready to flower.
Autumn always seems to come like that, like a snap in the fingers, always catching me unaware, resisting. It is hard to get into the mind of cold and winter, and even autumn, because one day it is 80 degrees (like this past Monday) and the next day it is 60 or 55 and drops to 40 at night. One day you can go for a swim and the next you have to call the furnace man.
Monday I was out drinking (again) in the garden, on a warm and balmy evening, September 30 already, but the air, the sky, the flowers all whispered August and July. I smelled jasmine and nicotiana, and then the grapes, those old ancient grapes peeping through the thick and leafy vines running all along the driveway. They fill the air with scents of old Mogan David wine from someone’s childhood. Even the birds and bees have been fooled by the warm September weather, and have let the grapes ripen more and more until they are honey sweet, almost black , but exuding fragrances that could make you faint— with joy and exhilaration. Usually the grapes are gone by late September. The birds are letting them be for awhile to ripen even more, they are waiting for something still to come.
I almost didn’t go out in the garden last night it was so cold. But the gardeners came that day. They mowed and edged the lawn, and afterwards it looked so green and lush, still smelled like cucumbers and watermelon…. The flowers were still growing and smiling, and even the zinnias I planted in pots, the ones with ruby red flowers — they were still standing tall and bright even though they have been whipped by winds for three days and nights. How could that be? How do they keep upright with hurricanes beating down on them?
I went out anyway, in my robe, craddling a Canadian Mist on the rocks (liquor my neighbors bequeathed to me before moving away— I am drinking all their old liquor, things I would never buy, but it’s all quite tasty). I never had Canadian Mist– it tasted of vanilla, caramel, and something peaty/leathery. The ice in the glass though was stale, the cubes had been sitting in the old freezer too long. Another thing to do this fall, get rid of old, malfunctioning, ugly olive green fridge….
The cold finally sent me scurrying inside like a mouse, though I wanted to stay and linger, watch every leaf and flower. A lonely monarch still fluttered in the air, hovering over the Buddleias that are still blooming with many big fat bunches of lavender flowers. I sat and watched the garden for awhile from the window. If not for the cold temperature it looked like an August evening.
After all the howling and thrashing last night I thought the garden might be battered half to death. I was afraid to go and look at it this morning. The house was freezing , the floors icy, cold enough to turn on the heat. I thought of just staying inside, getting ready for the winter and cleaning, organizing, tossing out old things, sweeping up cobwebs in the basement…
Instead I walked out into the garden with my bitter black coffee and saw immediately the morning glories— 7 or 8 flowers still blooming unharmed, fresh and deep purple like they were weeks ago, traveling on slender threads, weaving in and out of the dying tomato plants, the still ripening grapes, a pot of cosmos near the trellis, standing by like sentinels, tall and white, a deep pink verbena blooming like it was high summer. The air was cold and the wind whipping my robe around my legs, but still I stayed, looking at all the beauty, the grass beckoning me to walk as though it was leading me to the Emerald Isles, the grapes waiting to be tasted, the roses still trying to bloom, the coleus, though they were lashed mercilessly by the winds all these days and nights, looking as though they spent time in a greenhouse…the orange tuberous begonias, their leaves as delicate as peonies, still blooming in a pot, their skin unblemished as a baby’s. All of this beauty and magic, this fragrant peace, calling and calling to me each and every day.
Sometimes in a garden nothing dies.